+ A

Allies shared military intelligence in real time last week

July 13,2017
Seoul and Washington shared military intelligence in real time last week when North Korea fired what it calls its Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on July 4, according to a South Korean military source.

A military source here exclusively told the JoongAng Ilbo Monday that South Korea’s command and control center Air and Missile Defense Cell (AMD-Cell) was linked to the U.S. TMO-Cell system for the first time.

The official said, “The system was test-run through April and went into operation in June.”

Through the linking of their military tactical data exchange networks, South Korea is able to share data collected on North Korea’s ballistic missile launches by its ground-based missile-defense Green Pine radars, Aegis-equipped destroyers and powerful X-band radar of the U.S.-led Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system with the United States in real time.

However, the official pointed out, “We are still awaiting the final approval of both countries, so we were not able to operate the system 100 percent.”

The South Korean and U.S. militaries previously shared data on ballistic missiles orally or through documents.

Military information-sharing took longer, so it was not very helpful for South’s Korean Air and Missile Defense (KAMD) system, aimed at intercepting incoming North Korean missiles at terminal stages.

The Moon Jae-in administration is trying to speed up the completion of the locally-developed KAMD system, initially targeted to be completed by 2020.

Since South Korea does not have as many satellites and other detection assets as the United States, it has often been on the receiving end of intel from Washington.

Another Korean military source said, “Initially, the United States had been passive toward real-time exchange [of intelligence], but that changed after North Korea launched its long-range rocket Unha-3 in December 2012.”

At that time, North Korea secretively launched the rocket from a launching station in Sohae, North Pyongan Province, after making known that there was a delay in the launch because of technical difficulties.

South Korea’s radar-equipped Sejong the Great Aegis destroyer, dispatched in the Yellow Sea, detected the launch of the rocket first and notified Washington.

“The United States agreeing to real-time sharing of intelligence means that it has acknowledged the value of our Green Pine and Aegis radars being nearer to the point of launch of a ballistic missile [by North Korea],” said this official.

Under a bilateral General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) between Seoul and Tokyo signed last November, the two countries share military information through a direct hotline.

South Korea, Japan and the U.S. have a trilateral intelligence-sharing pact. Such sharing is seen by some analysts as Washington’s vision of a U.S.-led missile defense system in the region.

BY LEE CHUL-JAE [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]